Public School Accountability System:
Texas Assessment Of Academic Skills (TAAS)
The SBOE determines the level of performance considered satisfactory on the TAAS, except that for special education students, satisfactory performance is determined by the student's Admission, Review and Dismissal Committee. 88 Each school district must offer an intensive program of instruction for students who did not perform satisfactorily on the tests. The program should be designed to enable the student to perform at grade level at the conclusion of the next regular school term. For special education students, the student's Admission, Review and Dismissal Committee should design the program, so the student can reach an appropriate standard of growth.
TEA is required to develop study guides for the grade-level and exit-level TAAS tests administered to regular education students, so those students who did not perform satisfactorily can use them over the summer months. 89
There is a potential conflict with the intensive study program. Subsection (b) of Section 39.024 was amended twice by the 76th Legislature. One version requires the intensive program to be designed to enable students to be performing at grade level at the conclusion of the next regular school term, and the second version allows the intensive program to be alternatively designed to enable the student to "attain a standard of annual growth specified by the agency." 90
Subsection (b) of Section 39.024 also provides for intensive programs of instruction for special education students administered the state-developed alternative assessment. The intensive program for special education students who did not perform satisfactorily on the state-developed alternative assessment must be designed by the ARD committees to enable students to attain a standard of annual growth based on the IEP.
For 2003 and beyond, TEA must adopt secondary exit-level TAAS tests for students in grade 11 to assess their essential knowledge and skills in math, English language arts, social studies and science, which is necessary for high school graduation and readiness for college.
The math section of the exit-level test must include material on at least Algebra I and geometry. The English language arts section must include material that reflects at least English III and writing. The social studies section must include questions on early American and United States history. The science section must include material on at least biology and integrated chemistry and physics. 91
The Texas Education Code provides that a student may not receive a high school diploma until the student has performed satisfactorily on the secondary exit-level test. 92 Statute and board rules allow a student to graduate if the student performs satisfactorily on either the exit-level test or the end-of-course tests. 93 However, the end-of-course tests are scheduled to be phased out by the 2002-2003 school year.
Statute and SBOE rules provide that if a special education student is exempt from taking the exit-level assessment, the student shall receive a high school diploma if the student successfully completes his individual education plan (IEP) requirements. 94 SBOE rules provide that a foreign exchange student may be excused from the exit-level testing requirements if the student has waived in writing his or her intention to receive a Texas public high school diploma. 95
Students of limited English proficiency who have recently immigrated may postpone only one time the initial administration of the exit-level test and end-of-course tests. Recent immigrant means an immigrant who enrolls in U.S. schools no more than 12 months before the administration of the tests from which the postponement is sought. 96
A student who has not received a diploma because of failure to perform satisfactorily on an exit-level test may retake the test each time the test is administered. If the student subsequently performs satisfactorily and has met all curriculum requirements, the student shall be issued a high school diploma. 97 Board rules also allow out-of-school students to retest each time the exit-level or end-of-course tests are administered past their expected graduation date. 98
SBOE rules provide that for exit-level or end-of-course tests, a student shall not be required to perform at a higher standard than the one in effect when the student was first eligible to take the test. 99
SBOE rules require school superintendents to notify in writing each student and parent/guardian of the essential skills and knowledge that will be measured in the exit-level test no later than the beginning of the student's 7th grade year. 100 Superintendents must notify students new to the district in grades 7 through 12 of the testing requirements for graduation, but board rules do not require notifying parents or guardians of the new students.
Superintendents must also notify students required to take the exit-level test of the dates, times and locations of testing, but board rules do not require notification of the parents or guardians.
SBOE rules provide that a student using either the exit-level or end-of-course tests to fulfill the testing requirements for graduation must be tested by a Texas public school district or a Texas education service center. 101
As allowed by statute, under an agreement with TEA, a private school may administer a test adopted by TEA, if the private school agrees to maintain confidentiality, and the private school reimburses TEA for the cost of administering the test. 102 SBOE rules, in accordance with statute, require that if a private school administers a state test, the private school must provide to the Commissioner of Education the information specified in Section 39.051 (b) of the Education Code relating to test results, dropout rates, student attendance rates, the percentage of graduating students who achieve passing scores on the exit-level TAAS, the percentage of graduating students who meet the recommended course requirements and the results of SAT and ACT, and the like. 103
TEA implements Education Code §39.033 by making available to private and home schools, the TAAS, the exit-level TAAS and the end-of-course examinations for Algebra I, English II, Biology and U.S. History. TEA publishes notice in the Texas Register of the availability of the tests for private and home school use. To use the tests, private and home schools must agree to:
- maintain the security and confidentiality of the tests;
- test all eligible students at a particular grade level;
- follow the test administration procedures;
- reimburse TEA for the cost of the tests (the cost to home and private schools for using the tests must not exceed the cost of administering the tests to public school students); and
- provide to TEA the academic excellence indicator information on private school student performance. 104
Academic Excellence Indicators
The SBOE must adopt a set of academic excellence indicators of the quality of learning on a campus. Many indicators are set in statute but the board has the option to define additional report-only indicators to the list. The SBOE reviews its additions every two years for possible revision. 105 According to Section 39.051 of the Education Code, the academic excellence indicators must include the following elements:
- the results of the tests (regular TAAS, Spanish and exit-level tests, and beginning with
2002-03 school year, the Special Education tests);
- dropout rates;
- student attendance rates;
- the percentage of graduating students who attain exit-level test scores that are equivalent to a passing score on tests required under Section 51.306 (TAAS / TASP equivalency);
- the percentage of graduating students who meet recommended high school course requirements established by SBOE rule;
- the results of SAT, ACT, Section 61.852 post-secondary degree programs and certified workforce training programs (Chapter 311, Labor Code);
- data on students who have failed to perform satisfactorily on the tests, including the number of students, the results of tests, the number promoted through a grade placement committee, the subject areas failed and subsequent performance of the students in the school year following promotion;
- the percentage of students taking end-of-course tests in Algebra I, Biology I, English II and United States history (the requirement for end-of-course tests was deleted from Section 39.023 of the Education Code, by the 76th Legislature, and will be phased out effective in the 2002-2003 school year); and
- the percentage of students exempted from the testing program by exemption category.
TEA has used the first three academic excellence indicators to calculate a school's performance rating. College admissions results, TAAS / TASP equivalency and participation in the SBOE's recommended high school program have been evaluated for additional recognition only. The other indicators are report-only on AEIS reports.
The academic excellence indicator data must be disaggregated for: (1) race; (2) ethnicity; (3) sex; and (4) socioeconomic status. 106
Performance by a campus on academic excellence indicators must be compared to:
- state standards (established by the Commissioner of Education);
- required improvement (progress needed to meet standards, as established by the Commissioner of Education);
- comparable improvement (derived by measuring campuses and districts against profiles of similarly situated schools, such as schools with similar student ethnicity, socioeconomic status, limited English proficiency and past academic performance); and
- degree of change in performance from one school year to the next. 107
Annually, the Commissioner of Education defines the level of performance required to achieve exemplary, recognized and unacceptable performance ratings. 108 These criteria are published annually in the agency's Accountability Manual, a portion of which is adopted by reference as a Commissioner's rule.
Although it is the Commissioner's explicit charge in TEC Chapter 39 to define the accountability system, establish standards and assign ratings, statute has left a rule-making role for the SBOE, which is very limited in scope. The SBOE adopts the academic excellence indicators and rules that establish the ratings to evaluate the performance of school districts and to assign to each district a performance rating in the following categories defined in statute:
- academically acceptable; or
- academically unacceptable. 109
The rules adopted by the board must be consistent with the Commissioner's rules for accountability standards and ratings. The performance rating of a school is based mainly on the academic excellence indicators specified in Section 39.051(b), but excludes the number of students exempted from the TAAS tests as a rating factor. 110
Section 39.072 of the Education Code was amended twice by the 76th Legislature, and the amendments conflict with one another. Acts 1999, Chapter 396, §2.22 says that progress of students who have failed a TAAS should be included in the performance rating of a school, and that special education compliance status is an optional criteria.
On the other hand, Acts 1999, Chapter 1417, §3 says that the performance rating does not include progress of students who have failed the TAAS but should include the school district's current special education compliance status. 111
Education Code Subsection (c) of Section 39.072 indicates that student progress should be included in the performance rating (references section 39.051(b)(7)). Section 39.073 (e) indicates a legislative intent that the performance rating should include the district's current special education compliance status, stating that "[i]n determining a district's accreditation rating, the agency shall consider the district's current special education compliance status with the agency." Special education compliance status as a component of determining district ratings was implemented with the 2000 rating cycle.
The SBOE rules on performance ratings for schools may include (but are not required to include) additional criteria in determining performance ratings beyond the academic excellence indicators. These additional optional criteria are:
- compliance with the regulatory requirements relating to:
(a) reporting data through PEIMS;
(b) high school graduation requirements;
(c) extracurricular activities;
(d) health & safety;
(f) elementary school class size limits;
(g) removal of disruptive students from the classroom;
(h) at-risk programs; and
(i) pre-kindergarten programs.
- the effectiveness of the school district's special education programs based on TEA's most recent compliance review, or the effectiveness of district's programs for "special populations." 112
TEA annually must review the performance of each district and campus on the academic excellence indicators and determine whether a change in accreditation status of the district is warranted. 113
Each school year, TEA prepares and distributes to each school district a report card for each campus. By law, the report card must compare campus performance to previous campus performance, current and previous district performance, state-established performance and comparable campus group performance. Data should be disaggregated by student groups. The report card must also include the following information:
- academic excellence indicators;
- student/teacher ratios (by grade level and subject);
- average class size by grade level and subject (2 bills passed affecting §39.052); and
- administrative and instructional costs per student. 114
The Commissioner must adopt rules that require the annual dissemination of the class size and student performance portions of the campus report card to parents.
The Board of Trustees of a school district must publish an annual report describing the educational performance of the district and of each campus, that includes uniform student performance and descriptive information as prescribed by rules adopted by the Commissioner of Education. The report must include:
- the campus performance objectives established by the principal and the campus level planning and decision-making committee;
- the progress of each campus toward the objectives;
- the performance rating of the district and each campus (exemplary, recognized, academically acceptable or academically unacceptable);
- data on violent or criminal incidents that occurred on campus;
- information on school violence prevention and violence intervention policies and procedures;
- findings from evaluations conducted under the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1994 (20 U.S.C. §7101);
- a comparison provided by TEA of the performance of each campus and district to its previous performance and to state-established standards, and to comparable improvement; and
- the amount of the school district's unencumbered surplus fund balance as of last date of the preceding fiscal year and the percentage of budget. 115
The annual performance reports are to be a primary consideration in the evaluation of the performance of the Commissioner of Education, the directors of the regional education service centers, school district superintendents and campus principals. 116 The Commissioner must require each school district to notify property owners and parents in the district if a school is rated low-performing or the district is rated academically unacceptable. 117